Is This the Future of Showing?

There have been SO many things going on with horse shows lately, from cancellations to concerns about leadership at the USEF level, to exorbitant costs, racism, and everything in between. My year started with a horse injury, so I wasn’t planning on trying to collect points and instead had already moved my big away show plans to the fall. I was hoping I could go spend some time with friends in Aiken, show there, and then spend a week showing in Tryon before going back home to Maryland. Now even this downgraded schedule seems a) unsafe and b) too ambitious for what time there is left this summer.

I do want to compete, though! I’ve been in fairly intensive training for the last few months, hoping to get to a show at some point. Living in the Mid-Atlantic region, however, has been a little dicey in terms of COVID-19, and a lot of shows were canceled. Some of the venues that opened up again did not appear to be following or enforcing safe protocols, so those were off my list, while others simply didn’t work with my schedule (always an issue for the working ammy!) One show I couldn’t go to was operating with very good safety protocols, but they had to shut down mid-week due to two people who were competing even though they were apparently waiting for COVID test results. The results came back positive, at which point the people were forced to inform the show office. This is such a shocking example of how careless some can be with other people’s lives and health that hearing this news almost took my breath away.

Traveling long distances for multi-day shows also doesn’t seem prudent right now; nor does it feel responsible to me to go outside of my immediate region. I want this era of fear and uncertainty and trauma to be over, as do we all, and multi-state travel for sporting events isn’t going to help us achieve that goal. We still lack leadership at the center to deal intelligently with the pandemic, and leadership at the state and local level varies wildly across the country. 

Me on Steve, competing at a single-day outing (I’ll explain these below).  Photo by Susan Glover.

So, what are we to do? One of my strategies has been to look for opportunities outside of the usual multi-day hunter/jumper show structure. As I am not going after points there is now a much wider range of possibilities for getting Steve and me out and about. I am lucky in that there is an excellent venue near me in the form of Swan Lake that holds A and B rated shows, as well as monthly schooling shows. The B and schooling shows are one day, and even the A shows have days during the week with open jumper classes that allow for shipping in and getting a few rounds under our belt. 

Other options include Combined Tests, offered by eventing venues. Generally, you can choose to do a dressage test and a jumping round, or you can just pick one of those, paying extra for an additional test or round for practice. I went to one a few days ago that offered everything from poles on the ground up to 1.10m. It was a cheap, safe, and fun morning, and Steve and I got to jump around a challenging course in a grass ring. We did two jump rounds (I always forget my dressage test halfway through, so I have vowed to skip those from now on), and were done by 9:30 in the morning, spending just over $40 for the privilege.  

Steve (who looks bored? or hungry) and me after a morning of showing on the grass. Photo by Susan Glover.

Depending on how high you want to jump, there are a myriad of other unrated shows, open schooling days at good venues, and a whole variety of other things you can do with your horse. I’ve written about my dressage training, and galloping and XC schooling at Windurra, Boyd Martin’s lovely property. In my area, there are hunter paces, clinics, and all sorts of other ways to get out and about to learn new skills or test the ones I already have. 

Don’t get me wrong: I love to compete, and I am lucky enough to have a horse that is born and bred to jump big, stripey pole jumps. I am absolutely looking forward to getting back to rated showing, and trying to earn points in my division. But as 2020 stumbles along, it is more and more clear that we need to think outside of our own little boxes. Short, single day outings are inexpensive, safe, and fun ways to continue to challenge ourselves and our horses. 

The worry of COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time, perhaps forever, but we can remove some of the stress by approaching what we do with our horses in a lower stakes way until our society has more control over this horrible virus. The excitement and challenge of competing in a big classic is not replaceable, but the satisfaction I felt after my second clear round at the CT I attended was pretty solid. Think outside of your box! What do you have to lose?